Research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement. In my last three posts I outlined the actions to take at the initiation, implementation and embedding stages. In this post I focus on the 6 actions used to reinforce customer culture.
Once customer culture is embedded as the normal way of doing business it is important to be vigilant and reinforce it. With success comes arrogance, and with arrogance – complacency. There are many examples of previously successful companies that fell into that trap. Toyota, a guiding example of customer culture, suffered not only losses, but humiliation at a congressional hearing in February 2010, when they failed to accept that some of their models had safety problems. This was a failure of culture in which the famed Toyota quality control was not questioned despite substantial customer feedback of problems experienced by American consumers. It illustrates that even the best companies need reinforcement of their customer culture.
The following 6 actions help companies to avoid mis-steps
1. Culture reinforcement and revitalization activities
Leaders should use new technologies to reinforce customer culture and revitalize staff. These may include real time observation of customers buying their products and real time social media commentary on the company’s service. Particular attention on negative customer experiences and comments helps to avoid complacency.
2. Ongoing market alignment and re-alignment activities
Sharing customer and competitive insights across the business acts as a vehicle to engage all staff in innovative activities that re-aligns the business with its changing market and competitive landscape. Just as many of the media companies like News Corporation have found, disruptive technologies require new business models for re-alignment to take place.
3. Continuous monitoring of customer culture and customer performance metrics
Companies need to look for new ways to improve their measurement of customer culture and customer-focused business performance. In particular, models for identifying the drivers of future performance can act as early warning signals for adaptation. The Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) are two complementary measurement tools that provide early warning signs of future performance.
4. Cultural screening of new management and staff
Newly hired senior management can have a positive or negative effect on customer culture. Many companies now hire for “cultural fit” to ensure reinforcement of the culture.
5. Cultural “flame keepers”
As firms adapt to change, staff are faced with changes in processes that can affect customer culture. This is extreme when a company acquires another business that has a different culture. These changes make the company susceptible to new management fads that may run counter to its customer culture. The role of flame keepers is to ensure that these changes do not negatively affect the company’s core customer culture.
6. Measurement of the profit impacts of customer culture
The major purpose of a strong customer culture is to enable a company to adapt to external change in a way that produces sustainable revenue and profit growth. By measuring the profit impacts of its customer culture and improved customer experience and the costs of any mis-steps, a company reinforces the value of having a strong customer culture.
A corporation that has done a great job at developing and maintaining a strong customer culture throughout its many different businesses is Virgin. Richard Branson has been able to embed strong customer cultures in many Virgin companies. They operate in businesses as unrelated as railroads and banking and serve as proof that a focus on creating a powerful customer culture is a successful way to differentiate and profit.